New IRS emails raise doubts about the agency's claims that its targeting of conservative groups wasn't politically motivated and that it was low-level IRS workers in Cincinnati who masterminded the operation.
The emails were sent between former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and her staff, and were discovered by the House Ways and Means Committee, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial
In a February 2011 email, Lerner told her staff that a tea party issue is "very dangerous" and is something "Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on ... Cincy should probably NOT have these cases."
That contradicts former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller's comments in May that the targeting was merely the work of two "rogue" employees in Cincinnati. "When the story broke, Ms. Lerner suggested that her office had been unaware of the pattern of targeting until she read about it in the newspaper," the editorial says.
"Earlier this summer, IRS lawyer Carter Hull, who oversaw the review of many tea party cases and questionnaires, testified that his oversight began in April 2010."
Tea party cases are "being supervised by Chip Hull at each step," IRS Rulings and Agreements Director Holly Paz wrote to Ms. Lerner in a February 2011 email. "He reviews info from TPs [tea parties], correspondence to TPs etc. No decisions are going out of Cincy until we go all the way through the process."
The emails also bring in the issue of conservative campaign spending on the 2012 elections, the editorial says. In July 2012, Lerner-adviser Sharon Light emailed Lerner a National Public Radio story saying outside money was working against Democratic efforts to keep their Senate majority.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told the Federal Election Commission that conservative groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be treated as political committees rather than as tax-exempt social welfare groups that don't have to reveal their contributors, the editorial says.
"Perhaps the FEC will save the day," Lerner wrote back.
"That response suggests Ms. Lerner's political leanings," the editorial says.
"Democrats want to pretend the IRS scandal is over, but Ms. Lerner's role deserves much more exposure."
In the end, the IRS actions against tea party groups may have done them a favor. Outrage over the government agency's activity is being credited with helping the national movement regain its momentum
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